Make good behavior fun.

Ways to Reward a Five-Year-Old

by Courtney Clark

Positive re-enforcement is a great way to get your little monster to behave like a little angel. While negative consequences do get results, you don't always want to be the nagging bad guy. However, 5-year-olds are flighty creatures, and it can be hard to figure out when and how you should reward them. After careful planning and consideration, though, you can think up a reward system that works for you and your little one.


Instead of nagging your kid whenever he does something wrong, praise him when he does something right. If your 5-year-old has trouble keeping his room clean, encourage him when he does clean it by saying, "Thanks for putting your dirty clothes in the hamper. Your room looks awesome!" Be specific with your praise. Generic phrases like "Good job!" can get old fast. Five-year-old kids have the attention span of a humming bird, always moving on to the next thing (and hopefully not destroying anything in their path), so make sure to keep the praise exciting.

Reward Daily

Reward your 5-year-old daily. If you say, "If you eat your broccoli, I'll take you to Disneyland next month," you might as well have said, "If you eat your broccoli, we'll fly to Mars!" Next month is just that unattainable to a young kid. Five-year-olds live in the here and now, so reward them here and now. If you want to give your little one a bigger reward that can't happen daily, like a trip to the movie theater, you can do it weekly instead, as long as you visually track her progress daily.


Chances are, your 5-year-old loves getting his hands on things. While this drives you up the wall sometimes, it can be helpful when you're trying to reward him for good behavior such as keeping his room clean. Let him help you make a good behavior chart. This system allows you to reward him daily and visually track his progress. Make the chart interactive so that it's fun to use. Your 5-year-old can put a sticker on the chart each time he behaves well, or he can connect the dots to form a picture. Whatever you decide, make sure to mix it up often. Kids get bored easily and, pretty soon, that chore chart will be so "last week."

Personality-Specific Rewards

Not all types of rewards work for every child. If your child is a girly girl who loves to throw tea parties for her dolls, chances are she won't appreciate a toy sword as a reward. To figure out what kinds of rewards will work best for your child, talk to her. Ask her about places she'd like to go and things she'd like to do. As a bonus, you get extra points for taking the opportunity to have a nice chat with your little one and grow your relationship with her.

Natural Consequences of Good Behavior

If you don't want your 5-year-old to look at you as if you're a raving lunatic, the rewards you give him for his actions have to make sense. If you buy him a new toy after he behaves well at school, your child won't know what good behavior of his is being rewarded, because the reward is not a natural consequence to the behavior. Instead, buying a new toy could be a natural consequence of the child keeping his room clean. "When I take good care of my toys, Mom trusts me with new ones." That line of thinking is more natural.

About the Author

Courtney Clark studied English, creative writing, film and history at Southern Virginia University from 2005 through 2008, earning a Bachelor of Arts. During her time at SVU, Clark participated in the English Honors Society and the university's film club.

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